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Preparing for Natural Hazards

Read and/or Download Special Paper 32 - Geologic Hazards: Reducing Oregon´s Losses (2.4 MB PDF file)

Read and/or download Special Paper 31 - Mitigating Geologic Hazards in Oregon: A technical Reference Manual (0.8 MB PDF file)


The science of geology tells us that the natural disasters of the future will exceed those that we have experienced in our brief written history. Oregon has a variety of geologic hazards including landslides, debris flows, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and erosion. The risks posed by these hazards can actually be managed so that the benefits achieved in managing these risks are acceptable in terms of costs. The keys to managing the risks are having enough information about the hazard and taking the proper steps to reduce the risk from that hazard.

Reduction of risk from geologic hazards is of increasing concern to communities in Oregon for a variety of reasons.

• Oregon is a state with a wide range of geologic hazards with significant impacts.

• Demographics are pushing development into higher hazard types of terrain.

• Recent legal actions are better defining the responsibilities and liabilities of communities, developers, and landowners.

• Regardless of the overall average risk for the state, the specific site where a disaster occurs is catastrophic for the victims, so reasonable steps to manage the risk are expected.

If the community does too little to manage risk, unnecessary losses will occur; if they do too much to control risk they may invite legal actions based on the “takings” doctrine. The challenge is to forge a strategy that optimizes the benefits of effective governance while minimizing the negatives. Key components are risk reduction, avoidance or management of liability issues, and sensitivity to cost issues.

In states like Oregon we deal with many kinds of geologic hazards, including landslides, debris flows, floods, earthquake ground response, volcanic hazards, tsunamis, and erosion. For each of these hazards, our historic record of losses only tells part of the story, given the shortness of the record. Available information on hazards certainly should be consulted, but in many instances, available information alone may not be adequate.